Proponents of MMP argue that it is better for getting representation of women and ethnic minorities.
This post at the Hand Mirror leaves no doubt that parliament has become more diversified since MMP was introduced, but how much has that had to do with the system and how much has it had to do with the times?
Society has changed a lot in the last 15 years. More women and a wider range of people from different nationalities and cultures have entered parliament on lists, but I wouldn’t want to suggest many, maybe even most, could and would not have been able to win electorate seats.
An example of both how they can and what’s wrong with MMP is Georgina Beyer, the world’s first transvestite mayor. She entered parliament by winning a seat but then when the electorate kicked her out she stayed on as an MP through the list.
To believe that people on lists wouldn’t be able to win seats would be a very poor reflection on both them and the parties they represent. It would mean their presence in parliament wasn’t due to what they had to offer but to tokenism.
That leads on to the question of whether diversity in parliament has made a material and positive difference to the communities these people are supposed to represent and wider New Zealand or whether their presence has just been a token one.
I think the jury is out on that. Some have made very real contributions, others have been nothing more than a bum on a parliamentary seat when votes are counted.
It’s all very well to say parliament is more representative of some sectors of the population but it has come at the cost of others. Does, for example, any party but National have any farmers (proper ones, not lifestylers)? Phil Goff was asked in a radio interview how many of his caucus had run their own business and he struggled to name any.
Even if increased diversity could only be achieved through lists, and I don’t think that is the case, it has come at the very high cost of fewer and therefore much larger electorates.
Greater diversity in parliament is small comfort for the people who find it much more difficult to meet their MP in their electorates.
If we changed to a system with more electorates there would be far more opportunities for people to be selected for winnable seats. Smaller seats would also increase the pool of people able to stand, make it much easier for MPs to service the electorate and for constituents to have access to them.
No electoral system is perfect, all have advantages and disadvantages.
Among MMP’s weak points is the amount of power it gives to parties when National is the only one left with a wide and numerous membership base.
That increased power for parties has resulted in poorer representation for people.
Who sits in parliament doesn’t make much difference to most people. MPs who are able to service their electorates easily and provide ready access for constituents is far more important.
That is why I’ll be voting for change tomorrow and choosing Supplementary Member.